Kyle Busch clinches playoff berth with birthday win at Kansas

To say Kyle Busch was looking for a win would be an understatement. 

Not a truck win, though. After all, with Busch winning Saturday’s truck race at Kansas Speedway, he had plenty of victories in that circuit to pass around. Instead, Busch was looking to clinch a playoff spot in the NASCAR Cup Series with a victory that has mostly evaded him since his dominant 2018 and 2019 seasons. 

Luckily for Busch, he was able to hold off the field late and pick up the victory on his birthday at Kansas Speedway Sunday afternoon. 

The Cup win is Busch’s first since Oct. 28, 2020 at Texas Motor Speedway. Additionally, it is his second career victory at Kansas and his first in close to five years (he won at the track on May 7, 2016). 

Brad Keselowski immediately shot ahead and captained the two lanes of cars at the start of the race at Kansas Speedway Sunday afternoon. As the field began to spread out, Keselowski held strong against a lurking William Byron and remained on top through the competition caution on lap 25. 

While Keselowski continued to hold off the field after finishing first off pit road, it was Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick who made significant strides on Byron and the race leader. With less than 10 to go in the first stage, Larson cleared Keselowski on lap 74 until Busch took over the lead with three to go in the stage and held on to pick up the stage one win. 

As Keselowski grinded through the top of the field, Larson continued to hold steady and eventually cycled back to the lead once green flag pit stops concluded. While Busch continued to put together a run while in second, the lead between him and Larson was too great to overcome. As a result, the latter won stage two by a margin of six+ seconds. 

Larson started off the final stage as the leader, and after Busch made a quick run for the lead, retained the top position over the next 44 laps until the No. 5 Chevrolet went down pit road for a scheduled green flag pit stop. Once Chris Buescher cycled through, Larson maintained his dominance up top once more and remained ahead of Denny Hamlin by over three seconds. However, the first natural caution of the day came out on lap 229 after a tire creeped out of pit road during the green flag pits. 

After winning the ensuing battle off pit road, Larson chose the outside lane before the restart with 32 to go. Hamlin, who chose the inside lane, promptly overtook Larson for his first lead of the day on lap 237. Larson, however, was able to capitalize when Hamlin slammed into the wall and brought out the caution six laps later. 

Larson and Busch started off the lap 250 restart in the top two spots. After two separate cautions involved Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Christopher Bell, Busch led the field upon the restart with two to go and pulled ahead through the inside lane to get the win. 

Despite an uncontrolled tire penalty earlier in the race, Kevin Harvick finished second. The finish is Harvick’s best through 11 races this season. 

Keselowski, who started on the pole, finished third. It is Keselowski’s seventh career finish inside the top five at Kansas Speedway. 

Buescher finished eighth to pick up his second top-10 finish this season (he finished seventh at Atlanta on Mar. 21). 

Hamlin finished 12th. It is Hamlin’s second consecutive finish outside the top 10 this season.

Larson finished 19th. With the result, Larson has now finished outside the top 10 in four of his past five races. 

The Cup Series will continue its season next week at Darlington Raceway. Coverage for the race will begin on May 9 at 3:30 p.m. EST. 

Unofficial results: 

Via Jayski

Unofficial playoff standings:

Via Jayski

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